Should you choose an au pair for your childcare?
In these tough financial times, many moms are finding themselves rethinking their childcare situations. Whether we need a babysitter to watch the kids while we're at work or just a little sanity-saving solo time away from the kids, we all know how those hours can add up to serious big bucks. It's a growing problem that has many of us wondering if we'll have to give up childcare to help make ends meet.
But more and more moms are turning away from the traditional charge-by-the hour babysitter or day care center. They're finding au pairs -- the answers to their childcare prayers.
For those unfamiliar with an au pairs -- they are young (18-26 years old) foreign girls who come to live with your family and help with childcare. Au pairs put in about 45 hours of childcare per week and are paid less than $200 a week. In exchange, they get a private room in your home and an opportunity to live and work in the United States. Sounds like a good deal, right?
Now while many find au pairs to be the answer to their childcare dilemma, Susy Morris, a community counselor with Au Pair America, says that there are a few details you need to know before you sign up. First, Susy says that families do not get to meet the au pair until they show up at your home. "You read the emails and the paper application, which is pretty extensive, but you don't know if you are going to click until they get there." If there is a problem, Susy says you can reapply for another au pair and in most cases, the second time is the charm. "One quarter of cases are mismatched. But I've found that re-matches work out really well. You may have had a family with two boys who was sent a girly girl au pair. By the second time everyone knows what it is not to have a good fit -- and they are happy to have it work out this time."
Another factor to consider before you sign on, is that au pairs sign up for one year stints. Sometimes they can extend for up to two years but that's something to think about if you're concerned that your child may grow too attached and will have difficulty separating when the time is up.
And while so many families are interested in au pairs for financial reasons, be aware that beside the weekly salary of about $177, families pay a fee to the au pair agency that runs about $6,000 to $7,000 a year. With that annual fee -- the cost of having an au pair in your home goes up to about $350 a week -- which is still not too bad for full-time care, especially if you have more than one child.
But beside the financial reasons, Susy says the cultural exchange is a key factor in choosing to invite an au pair into your home. "Having a young woman from another country is like having a full-time teacher for your child." If you would like to learn more about au pairs, check out Aupairamerica.com.